International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8th. First celebrated on March 19, 1911, International Women’s Day is officially recognized by the United Nations and many governments. China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Vietnam and many other countries consider International Women’s Day to be a national holiday.
The first Women’s Day was created to help further the role of women in society and government and specifically address the right of women to vote and have a role in Parliament. International Women’s Day has historically been an opportunity for protests, activism, raising awareness and celebration. In the United States, this day can be part of a month-long celebration of Women’s History Month.
Education is key to the fabric of any society, and offers a strong theme for the further study of International Women’s Day. For the Montessori elementary teacher, this provides an opportunity to share with your students the history of struggle and achievement of women in order to receive an equal education through activities and discussion.
Activities for International Women’s Day in the Montessori Classroom
Discuss with your Montessori students how educational opportunities (or lack thereof) can be what aids or prevents equality among gender, race, etc. Without an equal education, women were (and in some areas of the world, still are) viewed as lower-class citizens and some women even came to believe this about themselves.
Encourage discussion about how, as women gained the right to an equal education, they were eventually able to hold the same jobs as men, vote, and participate in government. This is a concept that could be further explored through the study of the rights and freedoms of women in other cultures around the world today. As well, Montessori teachers can help students discover the important links between peace and education for women.
Presenting the history of Maria Montessori in an age-appropriate way can benefit Montessori students of all ages. This study can serve to connect them to their own education, as well as to the central theme of women and education from a historical and cultural perspective. Be sure to point out Maria Montessori’s education and the opportunities she created for herself.
Important Dates for Women and Education
- 1833: Oberlin College (nation’s first university to accept women and black students) was founded.
- 1848: The Seneca Falls Convention took place and a document was drafted that stated: “As a teacher of theology, medicine, or law, she is not known. He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education - all colleges being closed against her.”
- 1877: First woman in the United States earns a Ph.D.
- 1880: Women comprise eighty percent of all elementary school educators.
- 1910: Women make up 39 percent of all collegiate undergraduate students and 20 percent of all college faculty.
- 1920: Women’s suffrage was achieved.
- 1945: First woman accepted to Harvard Medical School
- 1980: Women enrolled in colleges equal men in numbers (51 percent).
- 1996: Supreme Court forces the Virginia Military Institute to become coeducational.
General Activity Ideas
- Encourage students to identify any important women in their lives creatively, through writing, poetry, music, art, or even dance or other performance, and share this expression with their Montessori classmates.
- The 2010 United Nations theme for International Women’s Day is Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all. The Ministry of the Status of Women in Canada’s 2010 theme is Strong Women. Strong Canada. Strong World. Encourage your students to create their own theme for International Women’s Day, and post it on your classroom wall for the month of March, which is Women’s History Month.
Elementary Activity Ideas
- Create a timeline that shows the significant dates and events in women’s fight for an equal education. This timeline could be country specific or global in focus.
- Compare and contrast women who achieved success because of their educational opportunities and women who achieved success despite their lack of educational opportunities. See the following book lists for some suggestions.
Books for the Montessori Elementary Classroom
- Women's Suffrage, by Richard Haesly
- Nobel Prize Winners (Women in Profile Series), by Carlotta Hacker
- Political Leaders (Women in Profile Series), by Janice Parker
- Susan B. Anthony: Fighter for Women's Rights, by Carol Ghiglieri
- Library of Famous Women: Madeleine Albright, by Rose Blue
- Women's Rights, by Wendy Mass
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, March 4, 2010.